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Robert Boice, How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure (Praeger, 1994)


Any activity that helps a writer think about a topic, determine a purpose, analyze an audience, and prepare to write.

In her book The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders (1971), Janet Emig defined prewriting as "that part of the composing process that extends from the time a writer begins to perceive selectively certain features of his inner and/or outer environment with a view to writing about them--usually at the instigation of a stimulus--to the time when he first puts words or phrases on paper elucidating that perception."

See also:

Types of Prewriting Activities:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Prewriting involves anything you do to help yourself decide what your central idea is or what details, examples, reasons, or content you will include. Freewriting, brainstorming, and clustering . . . are types of prewriting. Thinking, talking to other people, reading related material, outlining or organizing ideas--all are forms of prewriting. Obviously, you can prewrite at any time in the writing process. Whenever you want to think up new material, simply stop what you are doing and start using one of [these] techniques . . .."
    (Stephen McDonald and William Salomone, The Writer's Response, 5th ed. Wadsworth, 2012)

  • "Usually, the prewriting activities help you find a good topic, narrow topics that are too broad, and look at purpose. You should finish the prewriting activities with at least a sentence and a list. Or you may have something as formal as a three-part thesis sentence and a fully developed outline. Either way, you'll have laid the groundwork."
    (Sharon Sorenson, Webster's New World Student Writing Handbook. Wiley, 2010)

  • "Jeannette Harris stresses prewriting while stating that discovery occurs throughout the composing process, even in revision, when the writer is still "retrieving additional information, making further connections, recognizing emerging patterns" [Expressive Discourse, 15]. In prewriting as well as free-writing and keeping journals, ideas and forms are discovered by provoking memory. In addition, the personal nature of much prewriting and freewriting serve as an affirmation that the memory of the student writer has a valid place in the writing classroom."
    (Janine Rider, The Writer's Book of Memory: An Interdisciplinary Study for Writing Teachers. Routledge, 1995)
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